Creating a Cafe Culture - what does it take to have a successful technology hub?
The Silicon Valley story in the United States is one that is often emulated and yet rarely successfully so. The success of Silicon Valley is due to a wide range of factors - political, economic, cultural and technological. That is to say its success is not a result of good theoretical modelling but is situated in a specific culture in a certain place at a point in time.
“For 50 years, the experts have tried to figure out what makes Silicon Valley tick. The answer is people.” (Technology Review)
Those who wish to help create or further foster technology hubs and innovation centres of excellence must clearly consider the natural advantages of their local environment and play to those advantages whilst also ensuring that any local features that would make success unattainable are eliminated. It’s all about creating a critical mass of people with the right skills and get up and go.
Harnessing European entrepreneurship
To date the European story for successful innovation hubs is not particularly compelling.
The most obvious locations in Europe that have managed to bring the necessary mix of human resources together i.e. technical and finance expertise with creative flair (which is by definition risk taking) are London, Berlin and Paris.
However, Europe is significantly overshadowed by other global hubs, for example, Israel (and Tel Aviv more particularly) where they have managed to establish a reputation for matching funding to ideas and creativity that easily surpasses current European achievements.
“Tel Aviv has the highest density of startups in the world.” (Whiteboard, European startup scenes compared: Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin 2012)
Some of the obstacles Europe and the EU have include the significant differences in cultures, languages and laws within the EU. The EU is still a very young project by historical standards and it is going to take time for it realise its full potential, in the meantime investment in technology and innovation is fragmented. this results in a lack of finance for truly ground breaking ideas that can shake the world.
Investment in ground breaking technology innovation requires a longer-term view that so far has been largely lacking in the European scene. To remedy this more must be done to bring together successful entrepreneurs with the next generation of creative innovators.
In order to create a successful investment hub, we need a ‘café culture’ not dissimilar to the arts world, to encourage the circulation and percolation of ideas and the joining of like minds. Geographical density has some real advantages in this respect, Gibraltar being small enough for people to meet and do business together and big enough as a financial centre to help entrepreneurs acquire the kind of investment needed.
The European Opportunity
Some of the limiting factors for successful European innovation could also be an advantage. The multi-cultural mix that exists within Europe means that many EU start-ups will already be ‘multi-national’ in their human resources, commercial outlook, aspirations and product development. This could make the creation of globalised solutions easier and quicker to test.
Europe is going through some serious political and economic re-adjustments that mean businesses (and governments) are re-thinking their long term strategies. Crucial to success in creating a thriving innovation hub, there will need to be new partnerships formed with technical, commercial and finance entrepreneurs from within Europe and elsewhere around the world.
How is Gibraltar taking on the innovation investment challenge?
“Gibraltar, like the US, is made up of many diverse and highly coexistent and cooperative social and ethnic groups. This, among other factors, has caused the development of a can-do attitude and work ethic that makes it into a sort of ‘Nanocosm’ of the United States. American companies will feel very much at home in Gibraltar.” (James Lasry, President, AmCham, http://www.amcham.gi)
Gibraltar’s naturally cosmopolitan culture and history mixed with its success in key technology sectors makes it an attractive growing hub for investors and entrepreneurs alike. We have only just started to explore the wealth of opportunities but here are just some ways in which we are joining the dots:
- Its all about human wealth:
- Gibraltar is a naturally cosmopolitan community drawing on different skills and cultures to create a vibrant hub of human diversity
- We have thousands of people here that have worked in the e-commerce sector for over 15 years for a wide range of regulated and technologically innovative businesses
- Gibraltar boasts of world-leading executives and staff in cross-border sales, marketing and customer service
- Local legal, finance and other essential advisors have developed their expertise to support multi-national businesses
- Cultural confidence
- Business is carried out it in English language and based on English law
- Doing business in a culture that you understand is essential for confidence, certainty and long term success
- Corporate Benefits
- Competitive European tax rates for business vehicles and for individual entrepreneurs
- Strength in capital and finance
- Gibraltar is already a burgeoning finance hub: it’s fast growing collective investment scheme industry is estimated to have more than £2.5bn in assets under management and it has grown more than 1000% in the last 8 years. With the introduction of the new alternative investment management legislation (AIFMD) and its opportunities for European wide passporting we think this industry can only grow: see www.gfia.gi
- Technological Innovations
- Gibraltar is the major regulated world online gambling hub and this has led to a significant pool of human resources experience of cross-border e-commerce including technology, marketing, finance and legal support. Our operators include Nasdaq and FTSE listed entities. We also have some notable home grown start-up successes: see www.gbga.gi
- Gibraltar is also fast becoming one of the leading centres for excellence in electronic money and payments within Europe. We have four high-tech companies here including two regulated US international payments companies: see www.gema.gi
- Cross Border Co-operation
- Gibraltar is a great launchpad for international businesses looking for a European presence. For example, recently Gibraltar announced the establishment of a new American Chamber of Commerce: see www.amcham.gi